As one of his final acts as secretary of defense, Leon Panetta is expected to establish more equal benefit rights for gay and lesbian military couples and their families.
According to Outserve-SLDN, Panetta will make the announcement this week, before officially leaving office. The organization has been lobbying the Pentagon and federal government to extend benefits as simple as housing and military ID access to same-sex partners of military personnel since "don't ask, don't tell" was repealed officially in 2011.
The Washington Post reports that Pentagon officials are trying to determine which benefits can be extended to same-sex couples without violating the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which bars the federal government from recognizing the rights of gay and lesbian couples. An estimated 100 benefits may be extended to partners, spouses and families. Currently, same-sex partners and spouses are granted minimal rights.
“Secretary Panetta established a strong civil rights record long before taking office at the Pentagon, so his unwillingness to extend support and recognition to gay and lesbian service members and their families where it is clearly within his authority to do so has baffled many of us," said Outserve-SLDN executive director Allyson Robinson. "We are hopeful that he will not take half-measures here; for him to grant anything less than the full extent of benefits available under current law would be an anticlimactic end to an otherwise exemplary record on civil rights.”
Robinson also praised Senator Chuck Hagel, who is expected to be confirmed as Panetta's replacement, for assuring that he would uphold support for LGBT military families to the extent of the current law.